Saint Mary's College pioneers summer theological program for teen girls

Participants in the Embody program at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana (Saint Mary's College)

Are you looking for a transformative, faith-filled summer experience for your teenage daughter, parishioner or student?

The Saint Mary's College Embody: Beauty, Justice and Faith in Action program supports teen girls in reflecting on their experiences as young women through the eyes of faith. Launched in 2016, Embody nourishes the distinct and largely underserved spiritual hunger of contemporary young women; last summer, the program received over 130 applications for just 30 spots.

For one week, Embody teens gather at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, to explore the interconnections of beauty, justice and service in the life of faith. Reflecting on how they are each formed as beautiful reflections of God, girls are immersed in a rich combination of theological instruction, interactive learning activities, and service opportunities. Participants also examine the beauty present in their relationships with others; engaging in a day of community service, girls learn how to build a more just world as a manifestation of God's beauty.

Jessica Mannen Kimmet, program coordinator, describes Embody as a dynamic program that supports teens in "navigat[ing] the transitions of high school and beyond through the lens of faith." During the week, students are immersed in a vibrant community of faith leaders including Saint Mary's College student mentors, as well as renowned theologians and instructors from the college and beyond.

Judith Fean, vice president for mission, calls Embody a "natural continuation" of Saint Mary's College's 173 year commitment to serving the spiritual needs of young women. Founded in 1844, the Sisters of the Holy Cross have since dedicated themselves to the education and spiritual formation of women. In 1943, this commitment inspired Saint Mary's College to open its Sacred School of Theology, offering theological education otherwise inaccessible to women at the time. Today, the sisters' charism continues to inspire their ministry in fresh and creative ways. Fean describes Embody as an "invitation" for young women to join the sisters' legacy as women leaders and "pioneers" in today's world.

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As a religion teacher at an all-girls' high school, I am excited to discover a program that addresses many of the spiritual needs I witness daily in my students. I have found few opportunities that challenge young women to encounter their faith in such a relevant, supportive and deeply personal way. The personal video reflections offered by Embody participants clearly speak to this experience.

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Participants in the Embody: Beauty, Justice and Faith in Action program (Saint Mary's College)

"Before I came here I never really realized the individual qualities that make me beautiful both inside and out" says one participant. Another states: "[Embody] is a great experience to find yourself and find your meaning in your life." One young woman recalls her service experience in the South Bend community as an opportunity that "opened my eyes" and nurtured a sense of gratitude in her life.

Specifically, Jessica Mannen Kimmet describes Embody as a program created for young women who are interested in learning how to live their faith into adulthood, to discover God's calling, and to build a faith-based community of sisters.

If you know a teen girl who might be enriched by this opportunity, act quickly! Applications are due April 15 and can be found online. Embody will take place from July 9-14 on Saint Mary's campus and is offered to young women who are rising sophomores, juniors and seniors in fall 2017. Thanks to generous support from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., program cost is $180. For more information, you can email embody@saintmarys.edu or call 574-284-5389.

[Jennifer Mertens teaches religion at a Catholic high school in Cincinnati. She holds a Master's of Divinity degree from the Catholic Theological Union.]

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